x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A glimmer of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s contemporary art

The first pieces from the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi have been revealed and others will follow in an exhibition in November.

Otto Piene's 1972 work Hängende Lichtkugel [Hanging Light Ball]. Courtesy Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Otto Piene's 1972 work Hängende Lichtkugel [Hanging Light Ball]. Courtesy Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

A swinging pendulum of light and an installation of swirling bindis on broken mirrors are the first two objects of contemporary art to be revealed by the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi team as part of their first exhibition, Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection, scheduled for November.

Made in 1972, Hängende Lichtkugel (Hanging Light Ball) is a perforated, chromium-plated brass sphere with light bulbs in the centre that project dynamic patterns on the walls that surround it. The work is that of Otto Piene, a German artist whose work often rests on the connection between art, nature and technology.

The second piece is from one half of Indian contemporary art’s power couple, Bharti Kher. Kher, who is married to the artist Subodh Gupta, is known for her consistent use of the bindi, which is a Hindu symbol of wisdom and energy and could also be seen to reference the marital status of a woman and her place in society.

In this 2012 piece, titled Redemption is not the only reason to look up into the night sky, the bindis cover four large panels that resemble astronomical images. It was made specially for display in the Hauser & Wirth booth at Abu Dhabi Art fair, where the team at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi purchased it.

While the two pieces vary greatly in age and provenance, they both rely heavily on the use of light as a thematic element of their structure and concept. As such, they slot seamlessly into the exhibition announced last week.

“The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s collection offers various perspectives and narratives,” says Maisa Al Qassimi, the programmes manager in the Museums Department for the Culture Sector of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.

“When we looked over the collection, we decided to choose the theme of light because it reflects the transnational backgrounds, ethnicities and histories of all the artists.”

The exhibition will feature the work of 18 artists, from the 1960s to the present day, who work in multiple countries and regions and whose works encompass a variety of media.

It will also display two pieces on loan from the Guggenheim New York, which Al Qassimi says “underlines the strong relationships” that the institutions will maintain as the 2017 opening date gets nearer.

As well as having a strong focus on the Middle East, the galleries of the forthcoming museum will also highlight international movements within contemporary art such as pop art, which will feature works of James Rosenquist, the American artist who hosted a panel discussion in the capital last year.

The exhibition is set to take place in November to coincide with the city’s art fair and it is co-curated by Al Qassimi and Susan Davidson, a senior curator at the Guggenheim New York.

“We are so excited to have reached the stage where we are able to show a really strong exhibition and we are confident it will echo the thinking behind the entire museum – to relate to many different nationalities and cultures.”

Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection will run at Manarat Al Saadiyat from November 5 to January 19

aseaman@thenational.ae